Sunday, March 5, 2017

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

You could say that I'm a hardcore Labyrinth fan girl. I love the movie, Labyrinth, and have seen it many times, glitter-dappled set and cheesy puppets aside; it's an interesting story that's clearly inspired by Celtic faerie lore, and (you could argue) the allegorical tale of a girl's coming-of-age through the use of symbolism. In fact, many of the reasons I love the movie are less because of what's in the story and more of what's explicitly left out.

Because of that, I was a little skeptical when I heard that there was a book coming out that was inspired by Labyrinth - skeptical and also bouncing-off-the-walls excited. Because another book came out this year that was also inspired by one of my favorite stories: RoseBlood by A.G. Howard, which turned one of my favorite antiheroes into a psychic vampire who owns a rave club.

I was not pleased with these developments.

WINTERSONG starts out okay. It takes place in historical Bavaria, and is about a selfish brat named Elisabeth who only cares about music. She spends most of the book whining, feeling sorry for herself, and being jealous of her siblings. Then one day, her sister, Kathe, is kidnapped by the Goblin King, and Elisabeth is forced to go Underground to save her because if she doesn't succeed, her sister will be gone forever. The integration of The Goblin Market and Der Erlkonig were interesting, but I've seen Labyrinth fanfiction writers run with this concept before. In fact, one of my favorite authors, Subtilior, has a Labyrinth fanfic called Erlk├Ânig that runs with this concept beautifully. Likewise, Viciously Witty has an excellent Labyrinth fic set in Ireland that is based off and called The Goblin Market.

I get that there's only so many famous works of faerie lore, so the possibility of overlap is high, but that just makes it even more important to set your work apart from others' and go the extra mile to make the story interesting and the characters compelling. The Goblin King in WINTERSONG was not compelling. He did not feel like the King of Mischief; he felt like a nervous guy at prom who is afraid that his mean girlfriend is going to embarrass him in front of all his friends. He even blushes and stammers. He's also apparently a christian, or follows christian tenets, since he goes to chapel in his free time and talks a lot about God (especially in the last quarter of the book). This was really jarring to me as a reader, because many of the faerie lore is based on Celtic mythology that predates Christianity by centuries, so it doesn't really make sense that the "Elf King" would go to church....

I looked on the author's profile, and in one of her "Ask the Author" questions, when answering how she was inspired to write this story she says she "decided to write 50 Shades of Labyrinth." So I don't think that it's a stretch to say that WINTERSONG reads like Labyrinth fanfiction, and not even particularly good or original Labyrinth fanfiction, since it primarily relies on ideas that have already been explored by many others in the fandom. Even the sex in this book - arguably the selling point of the premise, since I'm sure many of the hard-core fan girls of Labyrinth wish that there was an alternative telling of the tale when Jareth and Sarah really did end up together - is uninspired and whiny. Elisabeth whines about the sex, that there isn't enough of it, that he doesn't really want her. There are some truly well-written passages in here, but then you also get ridiculous passages like these: "I dip my quill into the inkwell once again, and join up my teardrops into a song" (204).

If this book is 50 Shades of anything, it's 50 Shades of a Whining Heroine Who Never Shuts the Hell Up. She is one of the most unlikable protagonists I've encountered in a while because all she does is complain and whine and cry and talk about how ugly she is. The only thing that sets the heroine apart are her musical abilities (a similarity it shares with RoseBlood), and she's even a brat about this. She sets her brother's face on fire out of jealousy because he is able to study music because he's a boy and she isn't and gets mad at the Goblin King for obtaining her a klavier because - she says - it's too beautiful for her and that makes her feel bad, basically. I'm sorry, you want me to root for this twit?

This was a huge disappointment for me. The only upside is that it made me want to go watch Labyrinth again and revisit some of my favorite fanfic to read when I was in college.

1 to 1.5 out of 5 stars

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